In days gone by, graphic designers have used the term ‘above the fold’ to refer to the important content that features on the upper half of the front page of a newspaper. This is because when papers are delivered, they are normally folded in half so they display the top part of the paper only. Typically, this may have featured a large, engaging photograph, or headline news that the editor considered to be the lead story.
With the print industry fast becoming a distant dot on the horizon, the use of this term has been used interchangeably and has now become commonplace in the world of web. It is used in web design to acknowledge the portions of a webpage that can be visible without the user having to scroll. When we consider that the print and web industry are like chalk and cheese in terms of functionality, this term can be deemed inaccurate as screen sizes vary significantly between users, especially now in an era where websites are viewed with mobile devices and tablets as much as desktop computers.
Ignoring the cries of web designers everywhere, the new digital fold concept has evolved into ‘squeeze as much content as you can above a certain number of pixels’.
This concept is just wrong. Can you image how uninviting a newspaper would look if it crammed all of its content on the front page? How would you feel if you were to open up the paper only to discover blank pages on the inside?
The same principles should be applied to your website. If all of your important content is forced to the top and delivered to the user when they first lay eyes on your site they are going to feel overwhelmed, bombarded and frustrated. All that information overload will simply just discourage them from delving into the sub pages of your site and as a result, they are most likely to refrain from contacting you about your product or service.
The main goal of the newspaper is to get you to read the entire paper, newspapers offer snippets of feature articles on the front page with the goal of leading you inside. The same goes for your website: it is an overview of your business, designed to give the user a quick taste of what you have to offer and make them want more.
As screen resolutions increase and touchscreen devices become more prolific we are seeing longer page designs that house more content, resulting in a smaller website footprint. A user that has to scroll down the page will encounter less obstruction than someone who has to click a link and wait for the next page to load.
Don’t be shy about using space: open up your designs; use white space wherever possible to give your users some visual breathing room. If your content is compelling enough, your users will read it to the end – without getting a headache.
Below is a great article explaining this concept.